At a time when the country is struggling to bring down the number of coronavirus cases, what do you think the current status of the state in India which reported the first coronavirus cases would be? Thousands of cases and more number of deaths? More cases emerging day by day?
No. The ironical fact here is that the first state to report the coronavirus case, Kerala is now close to flattening its COVID 19 curve. From conducting aggressive testing to introducing isolation testing kiosks, Kerala is at the forefront in India’s battle to control the COVID-19 spread.
The efforts of the state and its government have earned appreciation internationally and found its place in the international media.
Standing on the top with fewer cases and more recoveries, Let’s see how Kerala achieved this.
The case trajectory and the Kerala Approach
Kerala recorded the first three cases of coronavirus in India in late January, all three victims being Indians who had studied in Wuhan. Ever since the state reported the cases, it has been on alert mode, trying to bring the situation under control. A look at the data of coronavirus cases reported in the state suggests that the state administration has been able to tighten its grip on the spread of the deadly virus.
The state began implementing mandatory quarantines for visitors arriving from China, weeks before the centre implemented similar measures. According to the data released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as of today, the total number of reported coronavirus cases in Kerala stands at 376. But what is more interesting is that among these total, 179 have recovered. So far only two deaths have been reported.
According to an article published in The Washington Post, Kerala has opted for efforts including aggressive testing, intense contact tracing, instituting a longer quarantine, building thousands of shelters for migrant workers stranded by the sudden nationwide shutdown and distributing millions of cooked meals to those in need which helped them in one way or another. It has been reported that with three deaths, 34% of positive cases have been recovered. This is higher than elsewhere in India.
According to Shahid Jameel, a virologist and infectious disease expert, what made Kerala’s approach effective is that it was both strict and humane.
Kerala had conducted over 13,000 tests for coronavirus by the first week of April, more than larger states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Kerala was also taking a lead in doing rapid tests and walk-in tests. Apart from this, Kerala has also set up help desks for non-resident Keralites (NRKs) including five COVID-19 help desks in every country with a large population of Keralites.
The Strengths that Helped in controlling COVID
The World Health Organization’s representative in India, Henk Bekedam said that its past “experience and investment” in emergency preparedness helped to opt “prompt response” this time. He also pointed out the measures such as district monitoring, risk communication and community engagement. The experience of dealing with Nipah helped the authorities to make the right decisions at the right time backed with excellent public health support and a dedicated public healthcare team of doctors, nurses, health inspectors and field workers.
The support from the Kerala police also needs applause. When the entire country is going through a tough time and complete government machinery is pressed into service to contain the dreaded coronavirus or COVID-19, Kerala Police is extensively using ICT to track people violating the 21-day lockdown and taking the help of ultra-modern gadgets to keep citizens inside their homes. Kerala Police has already come into the limelight by making innovative videos on social media. All are innovative in-house creations of Kerala Police, where all the actors, directors and producers are police officers.
Kerala tops India’s rankings on neonatal mortality, birth immunizations and the availability of specialists at primary care facilities. This has also helped Kerala in controlling the virus.
A disproportionately high number of foreign arrivals is one of the main challenges that Kerala faced. To overcome this challenge, screening at airports was tightened, and travellers from nine countries including coronavirus hotspots such as Iran and South Korea were required to quarantine at home starting on Feb 10.
The Kerala Initiatives
Here are some initiatives that Kerala has taken amid the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
- Break the chain initiative – Break the chain is a campaign to encourage hand sanitising among people to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
- Community kitchens in the village across the state to home deliver food to all those in need.
- Food and housing facilities for migrant workers.
- Walk-in testing facilities, which reduces the need for protective gears for health workers.
- Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute has developed 3 new medical equipment for COVID treatment.
- Economic package worth $2.6 billion to fight the pandemic.
- Provides uncooked lunches to school children and advance pension of two months
- Got ICMR nod to start Plasma Therapy for COVID 19
Consistency is the Key
Even as Kerala’s model virus management has been widely appreciated, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has cautioned people against taking the situation lightly and going easy on the containment restrictions, saying a minor slip could prove costly and spoil the hard work done so far.
“It’s a sign of relief that in the state the positive cases are coming down and those who are recovering are going up. But that doesn’t mean that the state should relax it’s vigil. If that happens, the consequences will be unpredictable,” said the CM.
Source: The Washington Post, Live mint, The Week, Hindustan Times, Manorama.